Six in Six – the 2017 edition!

It’s July, which means it’s time for the return of the Six in Six meme, hosted by Jo of The Book Jotter! I think this is the perfect way to reflect on our reading over the first six months of the year. The idea of Six in Six is to choose six categories (Jo has provided a list to choose from or you can come up with new topics of your own if you prefer) and under each heading list six of the books or authors you’ve read so far this year.

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I’ve used four of these categories before, but the first and last ones are new to me this year. I had fun putting this post together, but it’s not as easy as it looks; some titles could have been placed in more than one category and, as I’ve read more than thirty-six books this year, I wasn’t able to include everything.

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Six books with a colour in the title:

The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas
Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt
The Red House Mystery by AA Milne
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell

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Six books set in different countries:

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies (Sri Lanka)
Archangel by Robert Harris (Russia)
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (Bulgaria)
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Switzerland)
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton (Japan)
The Valentine House by Emma Henderson (France)

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Six books with a touch of mystery

They Came To Baghdad by Agatha Christie
The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola
Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer
Prague Nights by Benjamin Black
Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards
The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes

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Six classic novels

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Lost Horizon by James Hilton
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Six books about a real historical figure

Mata Hari by Michelle Moran (Mata Hari)
The Winter Isles by Antonia Senior (Somerled)
The Empress of Hearts by E Barrington (Marie Antoinette)
The Vatican Princess by CW Gortner (Lucrezia Borgia)
The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien (Joan of Kent)
First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson (Jasper Tudor)

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Six books with covers I loved!

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The Muse by Jessie Burton

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Are you taking part in Six in Six? How is your reading going this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best books read in 2017 so far

Unbelievably, we’re now halfway through the year – and for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish), we are asked to list our top ten books read in 2017 so far.

I found this list surprisingly easy to put together, although there were a few other books I would have liked to include but couldn’t as I was limited to ten. Maybe some of them will make it onto my end-of-year list in December, when I won’t be restricted by numbers! For now, here is my list of ten, not in any particular order:

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1. Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

3. Wintercombe by Pamela Belle

4. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

5. Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge

6. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

7. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

8. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie

9. Lost Horizon by James Hilton

10. The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas

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Have you read any of these? What are the best books you’ve read in the first six months of the year?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 recent additions to my Historical Fiction TBR

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish) we are asked to list our ten most recent additions to our TBR pile in a genre of our choice. The genre I have chosen is historical fiction – no surprises there! A few of these (books 4, 6 and 9) are also on my 20 Books of Summer list, so I’ll be reading those soon.

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1. Elizabeth, the Witch’s Daughter by Lynda M Andrews

I already have one or two unread books about Elizabeth I on the TBR and didn’t really need to add another, but I was intrigued when I discovered that Lynda M Andrews is also the Lyn Andrews who wrote The Queen’s Promise, a book I read a few years ago and enjoyed.

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2. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

I remember seeing a lot of praise for Natasha Pulley’s first book, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, but I never got round to actually reading it so was pleased to find her new one available through NetGalley.

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3. Claudius the God by Robert Graves

I read I, Claudius last month (my thoughts on that one should be coming soon), so the sequel went straight on my TBR.

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4. By Gaslight by Steven Price

This promises to be the sort of atmospheric Victorian mystery novel I would usually enjoy, but now that I have my copy I’m not sure about it. I think the writing style could be a problem for me, but we’ll see!

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5. Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie

I need to read the fourth book in this historical crime series for my Walter Scott Prize project, but I decided to start with the first book as it sounds like a series that should really be read in order.

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6. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jefferies

I loved the last Dinah Jefferies book I read, The Tea Planter’s Wife, and am looking forward to reading this one which is set in 1950s Vietnam.

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7. He Who Plays the King by Mary Hocking

I hadn’t heard of this until I saw Ali’s review a few months ago, but it’s set during one of my favourite periods of history – the Wars of the Roses – and I thought it sounded like my sort of book.

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8. Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

Another book I will be reading for the Walter Scott Prize project. I feel a bit wary of this one as it sounds very unusual and experimental. I’m not sure what to expect from it but I’m happy to give it a try.

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9. Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

I don’t know much about this book, but it’s set in 19th century Egypt which sounds good to me. I’m looking forward to reading it soon for the 20 Books of Summer.

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10. The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

This book is set in 17th century Amsterdam and is the story of Helena Jans and her relationship with the philosopher René Descartes. I usually like books set in the Netherlands, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this one too.

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Have you read any of these books? Do any of them tempt you? Which historical fiction novels have you added to your TBR recently?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books On My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday

I have a lot more than ten books on my TBR for this spring, but for the purpose of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday – hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – I’ve put a list together of ten that I’m particularly hoping to read in the next few months.

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The remaining books on my Classics Club list:

1. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

2. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (re-read)

4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (re-read)

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A few from my NetGalley shelf:

5. The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien

6. The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

7. The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

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Because I’ve just finished the first book in the series (Wintercombe) and can’t wait to read the next:

8. Herald of Joy by Pamela Belle

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For Lory’s Elizabeth Goudge Day in April (my choice of book could change, but I definitely want to take part):

9. Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge

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Because I always look forward to new books from this author:

10. Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

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Have you read any of these? Which books are on your spring TBR this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors new to me in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016. I’ve discovered lots of new authors this year, so I thought it would be interesting to join in this week and list some of them. Here, then, are ten books by authors I’ve read for the first time in 2016:

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1. Jane Smiley

Some Luck

Some Luck is the first in a trilogy following one American family over a period of one hundred years. I read this book in February and have the second one, Early Warning, on my shelf ready to start soon. I’m hoping I haven’t left it too long and will be able to pick up all the threads of the story again.

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2. George Sand

Mauprat

I read Mauprat in April for the Women’s Classic Literature Event and really enjoyed it – I remember being surprised as it wasn’t quite what I had expected Sand’s work to be like. I will be reading more!

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3. Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days

I had never read anything by Jules Verne until this year, but I found Around the World in Eighty Days a fun, entertaining read and am now keeping Verne in mind for future reading.

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4. Rosemary Sutcliff

The Rider of the White Horse

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get around to reading Rosemary Sutcliff! The Rider of the White Horse wasn’t the book I was intending to start with, but I liked it enough to want to read more.

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5. Charlotte M Yonge

The Heir of Redclyffe

I love Victorian novels and The Heir of Redclyffe was a book I had been meaning to read for a long time. It didn’t become an instant favourite, but I did like it and will consider reading more books by Yonge in the future.

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6. Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter

I probably wouldn’t have read A Place Called Winter if it hadn’t been on the list for my Walter Scott Prize Project, but I’m so pleased I did read it, because I loved it. Patrick Gale’s other books sound quite different from this one, but I’m still interested in trying them.

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7. Debra Daley

The Revelations of Carey Ravine

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing The Revelations of Carey Ravine for Shiny New Books earlier this year. I loved it and am looking forward to going back and reading Debra Daley’s earlier novel, Turning the Stones.

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8. Lesley Downer

the-shoguns-queen

The Shogun’s Queen is one of a quartet of novels set in 19th century Japan. I found it fascinating and am sure I’ll be reading the other three at some point.

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9. Edmund Crispin

the-moving-toyshop

The Moving Toyshop was another book I’d been meaning to read for years – and another one that I loved. This is one of Crispin’s Gervase Fen mysteries and luckily there are ten more books in the series for me to look forward to.

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10. Ray Bradbury

something-wicked-this-way-comes

I read Something Wicked This Way Comes for a readalong hosted by Lory. Although I wasn’t sure if Ray Bradbury would be my sort of author, I enjoyed this one much more than I’d expected to and would be happy to read more of his books.

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So, these are ten authors who were new to me in 2016. Are they new to you too or have I listed any of your favourites? Which of their books would you recommend I try next?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I’ve added to my TBR list lately

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is Ten Books I’ve Added To My To-Be-Read List Lately. This seemed like a good one to participate in, as it gives me a chance to highlight some of the books I’ve acquired recently but don’t know when I’ll get round to reading.

All blurbs are taken from Goodreads.

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1. Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari

I hadn’t heard of this book but was tempted when I was offered a review copy as it’s a classic Italian adventure novel, first published in 1900.

sandokan “Malaysia, 1849. The Tigers of Mompracem are a band of rebel pirates fighting for the defense of tiny native kingdoms against the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires. They are led by Sandokan, the indomitable “Tiger of Malaysia”, and his loyal friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer. Orphaned when the British murdered his family and stole his throne, Sandokan has been mercilessly leading his men in vengeance. But when the pirate learns of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan” his fortunes begin to change…”

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2. The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

I’ve never read anything by this author but I spotted this book on NetGalley and thought it sounded interesting.

the-phantom-tree “Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object for Alison – it holds the key to a past life, the unlocking of the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son. But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…”

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3. The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Another one from NetGalley. A few weeks ago I was looking for recommendations of historical novels about witches, so this is quite appropriate!

the-witchfinders-sister “1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women’s names. To what lengths will her brother’s obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?”

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4. The Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books but I think I might find this one interesting.

the-lives-of-tudor-women “The turbulent Tudor age never fails to capture the imagination. But what was it actually like to be a woman during this period? This was a time when death in infancy or during childbirth was rife; when marriage was usually a legal contract, not a matter for love, and the education of women was minimal at best. Yet the Tudor century was also dominated by powerful and characterful women in a way that no era had been before.

Elizabeth Norton explores the seven ages of the Tudor woman, from childhood to old age, through the diverging examples of women such as Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister who died in infancy; Cecily Burbage, Elizabeth’s wet nurse; Mary Howard, widowed but influential at court; Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of a controversial queen; and Elizabeth Barton, a peasant girl who would be lauded as a prophetess.”

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5. The Printer’s Coffin by M.J. Carter

I’ve just finished reading the first book in this series and enjoyed it so much I couldn’t wait to order the second one! This was originally published as The Infidel Stain.

the-printers-coffin “It’s 1841, and three years after we left them at the close of The Strangler Vine, Blake and Avery are reunited in very different circumstances in London.

There has been a series of dreadful murders in the slums of the printing district, which the police mysteriously refuse to investigate, and Blake and Avery must find the culprit before he kills again.”

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6. Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Scott and I liked the sound of this one.

redgauntlet “Arguably Scott’s finest novel, and the last of his major Scottish novels, Redgauntlet centers around a third, fictitious, Jacobite rebellion set in the summer of 1765. The novel’s hero, young Darsie Latimer, is kidnapped by Edward Hugh Redgauntlet, a fanatical supporter of the Stewart cause, and finds himself caught up in the plot to install the exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie on the British throne.

First published in 1824, this is perhaps Scott’s most complex statement about the relation between history and fiction.”

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7. Oswiu: King of Kings by Edoardo Albert

I enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, so I’m looking forward to reading the third.

oswiu “In the third entry chronicling the rise of Christian kings in Britain, Oswald dies and the great pagan king Penda becomes overlord in his place. To stand against the increasingly powerful Penda, Oswiu, king of Bernicia, tries to unite the smaller neighboring kingdoms by marrying a daughter of Deira. But the struggle for power leads Oswiu to order the assassination of the king of Deira. He wins the throne but loses the approval of the people. In atonement, he establishes a monastery at the site of the slaying. What will happen when Oswiu and High King Penda at last meet in battle? Though the kingdom may become politically one, both the Celtic and Roman strands of Christian faith vie for supremacy, mirroring the king’s own struggle for power.”

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8. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I’m curious about this book as I’ve been hearing a lot about it recently.

a-gentleman-in-moscow “On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol. But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.

While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.”

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9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This appeals to me as I love books based on fairy tales. The cover is beautiful too.

the-bear-and-the-nightingale “A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.”

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10. The Norman Pretender by Valerie Anand

I loved Valerie Anand’s Gildenford and it’s time I continued with the next book in the series.

the-norman-pretenderThe Norman Pretender continues the story of the great Godwin family, Earls of Wessex, and the most powerful faction in England. The book opens in 1052 and takes us in a series of brilliantly constructed episodes up to its climax at the Battle of Hastings and its tragic aftermath. Much of the action takes place in Normandy, where Harold Godwinson is rescued by Duke William from captivity, only to be tricked later into swearing an oath securing William’s succession to the English throne.”

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Have you read any of these or are there any you would be interested in reading? What have you added to your own TBR lately?

The 100 Book Tag

I don’t often take part in Tags but here I am joining in with my second one in two weeks! FictionFan posted these questions in celebration of her 100th TBR Thursday post and I couldn’t resist having a go at answering them myself.

What is the 100th book on your TBR list? (In the unlikely event that you don’t have 100 books on your TBR, what book’s been on there longest?)

I don’t keep a nice, detailed TBR spreadsheet like FictionFan, so I’ve simply taken the 100th book on my To-Read shelf at Goodreads. And book number 100 is…

the-brothers-karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Apparently I added this to the shelf in August 2012, so I really should tackle it soon! I want to have another attempt at reading Crime and Punishment first, though.

Open your current book to page 100 (or randomly, if you don’t have page numbers on your e-reader) and quote a few sentences that you like.

She wiped her eyes, her thoughts in turmoil. She knew now how she would answer Kaneshige’s note. When the poet Narihira was sent into exile he had passed Mount Fuji on his travels. Like Narihira she too would journey to the east and she too would see Mount Fuji. And if Kaneshige was on his way to fight the barbarians, he would pass by too.
This was what she would write: “If only we could meet…where the roads cross, in the shadow of Mount Fuji.”

From The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer

When you are 100, what author(s) do you know you will still be re-reading regularly? (This should be an easy one for those of you who are already over 100…)

Well, I’m not already over 100, so I’ll just have to assume that my reading tastes won’t have changed too drastically by then and that I’ll still enjoy reading the same books I like reading now. I would expect my regular re-reads to be classic authors like the Brontës, Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas and Daphne du Maurier – I’ve re-read several of their books already and can’t imagine not wanting to read them again! I’m sure I’ll also be re-reading Dorothy Dunnett’s books for the rest of my life (you knew I would manage to get the Lymond Chronicles into this post somehow, didn’t you?)

Link to your 100th post (if you’re a new blogger then link to your tenth post, or any one you like). Do you still agree with what you said back then?

Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

My 100th post was a review of Drood by Dan Simmons, which I posted in March 2010. At the time I said:

A gothic mystery/horror story set in Victorian London, featuring Charles Dickens and narrated by Wilkie Collins sounded like exactly the kind of book I would enjoy. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to its fascinating premise and I was left with mixed feelings about it.

I went on to describe some things that I loved about the book and also some that I disliked. I probably won’t ever read this book again, but if I did I think my second review would be very similar to the first one.

Name a book you love that has less than 100 pages. Why do you love it?

This is a difficult one for me to answer because I’ve always been drawn to long books and can’t think of many I’ve read with fewer than 100 pages. I was going to pick Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell until I discovered it actually has just over 100 pages (although I suppose it would depend on the publisher and the edition anyway). However, I’ve had a quick search through my blog archives and have reminded myself of one very short book that I did enjoy:

The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski (99 pages, Persephone)

This is an unsettling little book about a young woman who falls asleep on an old chaise-longue and wakes up to find herself in the year 1864.

If someone gave you £100, what would be the five books you would rush to buy?

I don’t keep a nice, detailed Wishlist like FictionFan either (I’m starting to see that my organisation skills must be sadly lacking) but here are a few books I’ve been looking at recently and wishing I had a copy to read now.

heartstone Heartstone by C.J. Sansom – I’ve just read the fourth book in the Shardlake series, Revelation, and am desperate to start the next one!

The Bull From the Sea by Mary Renault – This is the sequel to The King Must Die and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it. Reading another book set in Ancient Greece a few weeks ago reminded me about it.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman – I don’t often buy non-fiction for myself, but I’ve been interested in reading this for ages.

black-lamb-and-grey-falcon Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West – Another non-fiction book. This was recommended to me a while ago and it sounds fascinating.

A Pin to See the Peepshow by F. Tennyson Jesse – There are lots of Virago Modern Classics I want to read; I heard about this one when I read The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (it was one of her inspirations) and it’s really time I found a copy.

What book do you expect to be reading 100 days from now?

I don’t plan my reading that far ahead so I’m not sure – but 100 days from now will be the beginning of February when, hopefully, I should be approaching the final title on my Classics Club list. I think it would be nice to finish with a re-read of one of my favourite classics, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, so it’s possible that I’ll be reading that one in February.

Looking at The Guardian’s list of “The 100 greatest novels of all time”, how many have you read? Of the ones you haven’t, which ones would you most like to read? And which will you never read?

I’ve only read 29 of them, which isn’t very impressive, is it? I don’t like to say that there are any books I’ll never read, as I don’t know how my tastes might change in the future, but I think I’ve heard enough about Moby Dick to put me off for life. As for the books I would like to read, there are a lot on that list that interest me, but none that I’m desperate to read. If I had to pick one that I’m particularly looking forward to, it would probably be Daniel Deronda by George Eliot.

Free Question – Create a 100 themed question of your own choice and answer it.

What book were you reading 100 days ago?

Prince of Foxes

This is easier to answer than the question about 100 days from now! The date 100 days ago was 22nd July and according to Goodreads I was in the middle of Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger.

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Now it’s your turn. If you’d like to answer these questions too, consider yourself tagged!